As one of the top leading causes of death in America, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is affecting more and more people of younger and younger ages. As the daughter of a cardiologist, I have always been hyper-aware of this and of the various habits I should keep to avoid joining the cardiovascular disease club.

Not familiar with CVD? Let me give you the 411 according to the Mayo Clinic: cardiovascular disease falls under the umbrella of heart disease. It's more specific because it mainly "refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels, which lead to chest pain (also called "angina"), heart attacks and strokes."

If you're like me and would prefer not to experience any of that, read on for the best ways to lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

1. Avoid tobacco

Your lungs aren't the only organs that suffer when you take a drag; the Surgeon General has called smoking tobacco "the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States."

According to the American Heart Association, smoking "increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance, and increases the tendency for blood to clot," all of which are major contributors to CVD.

2. Get Your Heart Rate Up

Your heart is a muscle, which means that the better shape you're in, the better it can do its job. Staying active is great for your heart because it lowers your blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol (LDL and total) levels while raising your "good" cholesterol (HDL) and insulin sensitivity.

The good news is that you don't need to spend hours training to get the body of an olympian in order to have a healthy cardiovascular system. You don't even have to go to the gym! The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines say that it takes as little as 40 minutes of brisk walking 3 to 4 times a week to keep your heart in top shape. 

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

What does "heart-healthy" mean? The general guidelines provided by the AHA are very similar to those of the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes avoidance of meats and processed or sugary foods and drinks, and encourages making produce and healthy fats the bulk of your meals.

4. Watch Your Weight

People's bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and the number on your scale can fluctuate as much as 5 pounds in as little as 1 day. Don't fall for the lies about maintaining a healthy weight, and instead talk with your doctor about what your ideal weight range should be, and how often you should be weighing yourself.

For many, the relationship with the scale can be a rocky one, so if you don't want to weigh in more than absolutely necessary, discuss other ways to monitor weight changes with your doctor, such as clothes becoming ill-fitting or keeping a "wellness journal" to track your energy levels.

5. Catch some zzz's 

As if you needed someone to tell you sleep was the greatest thing in the world. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night can prevent cardiovascular disease, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you're someone who struggles to slip into a beautiful slumber, consider nomming on some sleep-promoting snacks.

6. Hydrate Yourself

According to my cardiologist mother and her colleague, this is the most important tip on this list. Around 60 percent of our bodies are made of water, so to keep our systems working at their best, we need to be drinking about 1/2 oz. for every pound of weight. 

If that sounds a bit intimidating, you can always be crafty in the way you up your H2O intake, or try making some flavored detox water. 

The universe knows that nobody's perfect. If you feel overwhelmed by this list, don't panic (for realz, don't, because stress is bad for your heart, too). You can significantly lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by mastering any one of these tips, so start with one, and begin taking control of your heart's health.